Inside the system
THE government last week called for "pay restraint" to stop the economy overheating, and then promptly ignored its own advice. It has decided to make an exception for one group of public sector employees-the lawyers charged with trying to put people in jail. Prosecution lawyers employed by the Crown Prosecution Service are to get a 30 percent pay rise, even though some are already on �250,000.
Covering up gene therapy
ALMOST 700 people may have died in gene therapy experiments that have gone wrong, and their deaths have been covered up. That is the shocking claim in a recent article in US newspaper the Washington Post. Gene therapy has been hailed as the cure for a range of killer diseases, yet it has failed to cure a single person. It is based on the same technology used in genetically modified (GM) foods. And, just as with GM foods, big business is out for profit.
The cases have come to light in the wake of the death of 16 year old Joel Gelsinger. Joel was being given gene therapy for his inherited liver disorder and died last September as a result of the treatment. It then emerged that the researchers responsible had ignored safety guidelines. One of the key researchers had commercial links with a company that stood to make huge profits had the treatment proved successful. In the wake of the Gelsinger case the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched an investigation and found that 652 patients receiving experimental gene therapy treatment had died.
In one case uncovered by the NIH three out of six patients died in one trial at Harvard University. Stuart Newman, a professor of cell biology who is on the Council for Responsible Genetics, says, "Problems are being deliberately withheld. Because of the heavy commercialisation of this research there really is an incentive to keep secret anything that reflects badly on the progress of the work."
A FUNNY sense of priorities the British police have. On the protest at the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland last week a man was offering protesters cups of tea. He was stopped by police who told him he was in breach of health and safety rules. So cups of tea are a health hazard, but not the missiles on the other side of the razor wire?
ARE Britain's immigration authorities and the Czech state airline collaborating in a racist scheme? The airline, CSA, is marking Roma Gypsies on flights to Britain so they can be singled out on arrival. "To help the British immigration authorities we put a little "g" by their names on the flight list," says CSA. Readers may like to know that the fax number of CSA's British office is 020 7323 1633.
Give us a break
WATCH OUT if you shop at Asda. You could be assaulted soon with the "Asda chant". New owners of Asda, the giant US retail company WalMart, have introduced the bizarre scheme. Staff are told to huddle together. Then they have to clap hands while chanting, "Give me an A, give me an S, give me a D, give me another A." After managers cry, "We can't hear you," staff have to repeat the whole chant. Part two of the performance then begins with managers chanting "Who is number one?" to which staff have to reply, "The customer-always." The chanting is carried out at morning "team meetings" and is also planned to take place during shopping hours out on the shop floor.
THREE CHEERS for Christopher Barrington, who walked free from court this week after admitting to siphoning thousands of pounds from his penny-pinching bosses' accounts. Barrington worked as an accountant at Direct Marketing Partnerships in Cheltenham. Over a six month period he transferred over �17,000 from the firm's accounts to children's charities.
When his action was uncovered he ended up in court. But last week he walked free after claiming his actions were motivated by wanting to ensure that deprived children had a good Christmas. The judge told Barrington that he would not have to repay the money as he was himself in debt.
The price of three strikes
AUSTRALIA IS in uproar after a young Aborigine was jailed for a year for stealing a soft drink and a packet of biscuits under the "three strikes and you're out" laws. The laws apply in the country's Northern Territory and Western Australia states, and impose mandatory sentencing on repeated petty crimes against "personal property".
The police use the laws to target young Aborigines. Twenty one year old Jamie Wurramura was jailed after taking packs of biscuits and fruit cordial drinks worth less than �9 from the storeroom of a Northern Territory mine. The case follows that of a 15 year old orphan, known only as Johnno, who was jailed for 28 days for stealing pencils and paint. He then hanged himself using a bed sheet in his cell.